Student Perspective

411 on the PI Team – Skyler Schoolfield

Ruth, Eve, and Skyler

UP Zambia primarily works with juveniles, but they also work with other vulnerable populations, such as prohibited immigrants. UP Zambia is the primary advocate for prohibited immigrants that have been detained by the Zambia Department of Immigration. Prohibited Immigrants (PI) are people who have been arrested for illegal entry, illegal stay, overstaying their visa, or leaving the camp without a gate pass (refugees only). Surprisingly, most of the PIs are legally in the country, and they often have their refugee papers, visa, and/or passport on them when they are arrested, yet they are arrested anyway.  The prohibited immigrant team works with the Commission of Refugees to get the arrested refugees sent back to their refugee camp, and they work with Immigration to organize the court appearances and deportation for the remaining prohibited immigrants.

The PI team consists of four members: Eve, Veronica, Yoram, and Fanny. Eve is the team leader. She primarily works in Lusaka Central Male; Veronica primarily works Lusaka Central Female; Yoram primarily works in Kamwala Remand, and Fanny does majority of the follow ups. During the month of June, three interns joined the PI team: Ruth from Northrise University, and Taylor and I from Baylor Law School.

In the morning, the PI team is at the prisons. The PI team interviews new clients, follows up with clients, and socializes with the clients to make sure that they feel they are not forgotten. The team rarely has time to breathe while they are there. Especially when there is a large intake of new PIs, which typically happens on Mondays. There are as many as 50 new PIs at a time. The very first day that I went to Lusaka Central we had 48 new PIs. The PI team member for that prison will interview and fill out the migrant form for every new migrant. This can take from 8:30 to 4 and there can still be migrants that need to be interviewed the following day.

The afternoons are spent either at the prisons finishing the work from the morning or spent following up with the immigration office, the commission of refugees, the International Organization for Migrants, or the embassies. UP Zambia has built relationships with the multiple government offices and aid organizations, and those relationships have greatly improved the lives and outcomes of their clients.

When I first arrived at the immigration office, I was shocked at how cooperative and friendly the immigration officers were. I was expecting backlash and pushback, but we were greeted by name and with (almost) open files. The officers seemed to actually care about what we had to say and were as frustrated as we were about the status of so many PIs. There was only one instance in which we did not experience such a relationship. Taylor, Ruth, and I went to the immigration office without an UP Zambia staff member. He greeted us, but once we got started with the meeting, he refused to continue talking to us. We still do not know why there was such a change in our interactions that day, but the situation was resolved by a simple letter the following week.

Back: Ruth and Veronica. Front: Skyler and Taylor

This team does more than provide legal assistance; they also provide friendship. Every time Eve or Veronica enter the female section, all of the PI ladies come running towards them. They talk, tell jokes, share food, and provide comfort. Frequently Yoram has 10 or more PIs surrounding him at Kamwala. This team cares about these migrants as people and as clients. This is why the team is so successful.

Student Perspective

UP Zambia: The Importance of Parent Tracing – Miles Moody

The juvenile justice system in Zambia relies heavily on court appearances of parents or guardians for an accused juvenile. A parent or guardian must be present in court for the juvenile’s case to proceed. If no one is there the court will adjourn to a later date and hope that someone will show up next week for the individual. This is when UP Zambia will step in and conduct parent tracing to find and tell the parents that they need to be in court for their child.

During my time in Zambia, I came across two individuals who were in court but had not had a parent present. After speaking with both of them, Doria (Northrise Intern) and myself, concluded that the children had no way to contact their parents and let them know that they were even arrested. This meant that the children either did not know their parents phone numbers or the parents did not have a phone. Also, the children did not know the street address of where they lived. All they could do was tell us specifics on how to find the parents and who in the compounds we could ask for help when looking for the parents. This usually meant getting the names of the most well-known people as well as descriptions and colors of buildings or landmarks to help us find the parents.

Along our search for the parents, Doria and I were accompanied by Mwingi, who works at UP Zambia. Mwingi is an absolute professional at parent tracing. Searching for the parents is a very daunting task because you are generally always in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. What makes it harder is that the local citizens are very skeptical of why you are in their compound and looking for someone’s parents. It especially doesn’t help when there is a tall white man following who cannot speak the local language. However, I found it helpful to try to interact with the local children to show that there was no reason to be scared of me and that I was truly friendly and just trying to help by finding the parents. It was always nice to see the little kids follow us around and be curious of why we were there, so I would stop and crouch down to try to say hi to them and give them high fives. I would also do my best to try to say hi in the local language. This seemed to make everyone feel a little more comfortable and allowed us to actually get help from the local people to find the juveniles parents.

Once, we found the juvenile’s parents, which we were two for two on parent tracing, we informed them their child was in the remand prison in Lusaka and was waiting for a parent to show up to court to deal with their case. What made me so happy about finding both of these parents was the fact that both juveniles would eventually be released. One child was going to have his charges dropped and the other was going to be let out on bail. This was a big win for team Kamwala. Although, the juveniles weren’t physically released while I was there, knowing that their parents are now aware of what’s going on and when they need to be in court next is a great feeling. If UP Zambia was not doing parent tracing, the juveniles would theoretically be sitting in remand prison waiting for trial for over a year. Now, because of a few hours of our time, the children will be able to proceed in court and will be released back home with their parents or guardians.